Airborne Toothache: Nightmare at 30,000 Feet

Have you ever had a toothache while you were on an airplane? Was it just an example of very unfortunate timing, or was there a legitimate medical reason behind this airborne affliction?

It’s not just a coincidence. There is a good reason. If you’ve had a dental nightmare at 30,000 feet, then you probably had an infected tooth that had bacteria in the root which produce a by-product of gas.

This trapped gas will expand in the root with changes in the airplane’s cabin pressure, causing pain in the tooth or jaw bone — or both. Asking the attendant for ice water, taking a sip, and holding it in the mouth near the affected tooth will decrease the temperature of the gas, causing it to contract.

The temporary solution described above will provide relief from the toothache pain for a short time. Continue to ease the pain with ice water, as necessary. See a dentist as soon as possible after your flight. And if you’re in our town, please come and see us.

So, what causes a toothache? Simply put, a toothache is pain in or around a tooth. And you may know from unhappy experience that a toothache can range from anywhere between a minor annoyance to profound pain, usually closer to the latter.

Toothaches can arise from a variety of factors, such as poor personal dental habits, a sugary or high-carbohydrate diet, trauma to the mouth or a failure to visit your friendly neighborhood dental office for routine but imperative checkups.

Remember, the best way to avoid a toothache is to attend your regular dental checkups and cleanings, brush twice a day, floss once a day, and eat a well-balanced diet. But if you do find yourself with a toothache, come and see us and we’ll take good care of you.